Medical experience meets the artistic quest for shape and meaning - winners announced for the 2020 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine

Judges Roland Jackson and Lawrence Sail announced the top places in the 2020 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine during a live webinar on 15th May, with participants from Sydney to California and throughout the UK. 

With an awards fund of £5500, the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single unpublished poem. The 2020 Hippocrates Prize is supported by medical charity the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine and healthy heart charity the Cardiovascular Research Trust.

The £1000 First Prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Open Awards went to poet, fiction writer, journalist and photographer Sarah James from Droitwich in Worcestershire for People Scare Me Because.

The £500 Second Prize in the Open Awards was shared by poet Clare Best  from Woodbridge, Suffolk for After your procedure and former instructor Ian Colin from London for Fighting the Minotaur. The £250 Open Third Prize was shared by poet and creative writing tutor Rosie Jackson from Trudoxhill in Somerset for It's Time We Found A Different Metaphor and poet and retired English teacher John Mills from Stone in Staffordshire for A letter from Dr Parkinson’s discovery. 

The FPM Hippocrates Prize Open winners: above - Clare Best (L) and Rosie Jackson; below - Sarah James and John Mills

The £1000 First Prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Awards went to retired General Practitioner Judith Wozniak from Fareham in Hampshire for First Do No Harm. 

The £500 Second Prize in the Health Professional Awards Awards was shared by Oona Chantrell from London for The Untouchable and medical student Lauren Fields from New York for A Laying On Of Hands In the OR. The £250 Health Professional Third Prize was shared by Northern Ireland’s  Programme Director for the Human Health Project Patrick Toland from Belfast for By Virtue of the Merits of her Son and a further award to Judith Wozniak for Second Opinion.

The FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Prize winners: above - Oona Chantrell (L) and Lauren Fields; below - Patrick Toland and Judith Wozniak

Commendations were also agreed for entrants from Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and the USA - 16 in the FPM-Hippocrates Open category and 16 in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Category.

Geoffrey Lehmann, poet judge from Sydney, Australia said: " Poems about illness and death, and medical procedures, have a reality and urgency that seem to fully engage the poet and reader. The "commended poems" as well as the "winning poems" were all at a high level, and choosing from such a rich harvest was not easy.

Historian and scientist Sir Roland Jackson, formerly head of London’s Science Museum, summed up his experience of the judging process in these words: “It was a pleasure to judge such a rich collection of entries. From reflective to fiery pieces, what struck me most were the vivid images of people accepting, resolute, or raging in life-altering circumstances.”

Physician and physiologist Professor John Stein from Oxford said: “I found the whole exercise very rewarding, instructive, evocative and moving.  From a medical perspective, they took me back to my feelings of inadequacy as a medical student, being an imposter when I first qualified, fears of not being able to cope, the loneliness of some people’s deaths (at the moment sadly all too relevant), the rituals of surgery, the implacable and bleak course of Parkinson’s disease, the terrors of Asperger’s, but also how the mind fixes on irrelevant but beautiful details in moments of high anxiety, cottage gardens as an antidote to pain.”

R Cynthia Liu

2020 Hippocrates Prize Young Poet winner Cynthia Lu

Judge Lawrence Sail announced the £500 Hippocrates Young Poet Prize for Poetry and Medicine for 2020 as Cynthia Lu from Belmont, Massachusetts, USA for Bright-body.  

He said: “The young poets remind me in one way or another of the assertion that 'poetry is not what you read, but what you re-read’. In these poems, the vivid and often raw world of medical experience meets the artistic quest for shape and meaning.”    

You can see details of shortlisted and commended poems in the 2020 Hippocrates awards on the prize website:

Co-organiser Donald Singer said: “We are delighted to have such a distinguished panel of judges for the 2020 Hippocrates Prize. We look forward to the announcement of the winners and to hearing their winning poems during the free online session on Zoom at 8pm UK time on Friday 15th May.”

The International Hippocrates Prize is awarded in three categories:

- a £1000 first prize, £500 second prize and £250 third prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Open category, which anyone in the world may enter. There are a further ~20 commendations in the Open category

- a £1000 first prize, £500 second prize and £250 third prize in the FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional category, which is open to Health Service employees, health students and those working in professional organisations anywhere in the world involved in education and training of health professional students and staff. There are a further ~20 commendations in the Health Professional category

- a £500 award for the Hippocrates Young Poets Prize for an unpublished poem in English on a medical theme. Entries are open to young poets from anywhere in the world aged 14 to 18 years. There are further commendations in the Young Poets category. There is no entry fee for the Young Poets prize.

The Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine – winner of the 2011 Times Higher Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in the Arts – is an interdisciplinary venture that investigates the synergy between medicine, the arts and health.

Notes for editors
For more on the Hippocrates Prize, including embargoed details of the winners and the winning poems, contact Donald Singer on 07494 450 805

Support for the 2020 Hippocrates Prize

The 2020 FPM-Hippocrates Open Awards and FPM-Hippocrates Health Professional Awards are supported by the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. The FPM, founded in 1918, is a UK medical society which publishes the international journals the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology. 

The 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets Prize is supported by the Cardiovascular Research Trust, a healthy heart charity founded in 1996, which promotes research and education for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulation. The charity has a particular interest in avoiding preventable heart disease through educating school students.

2020 Hippocrates Judges

Judges for the 2020 Hippocrates Awards are Sir Roland Jackson, Visiting Fellow of the Royal Institution and former Director at the Science Museum, Geoffrey Lehmann, the first Australian poet to be published by Faber and Faber, poet Lawrence Sail, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and former Director of the Arvon Foundation and the Cheltenham Literary Festival, and John Stein, Oxford Professor of Physiology and Chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust. Sir Roland Jackson, Geoffrey Lehmann and Professor John Stein will judge the 2020 FPM-Hippocrates Open and Health Professional Awards. Lawrence Sail will judge the 2020 Hippocrates Young Poets’ Prize for Poetry and Medicine.


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